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Solving the Mystery of Jupiters Strange Pulsating X-Ray Auroras



Jupiter is in many ways an amazing planet with its beautiful clouds, the largest storm in the solar system, and unusual phenomena such as geometric storms at its poles. And it has some additional strange things we are still learning about, such as the fact that it has strange X-rays that are comparable to the Northern Lights here on Earth.

For 40 years, researchers have been speculating on how these X-ray neurorors work, and now a new study reveals the mechanism behind them. Like the Northern Lights on Earth, Jupiter’s Northern Lights are caused by electrically charged particles that interact with the planet’s atmosphere. On our planet, these interactions create beautiful colors in the sky as they interact with the lines of the Earth̵

7;s magnetic field that look like auroras near the magnetic poles. But on Jupiter, the northern lights appear in different areas and are different between the north and south poles. Sometimes they even pulsate, suggesting that they are due to a different kind of magnetic field.

    spacecraft: ESA / ATG medialab;  Jupiter: NASA / ESA / J. Nichols (University of Leicester);  Ganymede: NASA / JPL;  Io: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona;  Callisto and Europe: NASA / JPL / DLR
The artist’s impression of the upcoming Jupiter Icy Moon’s Explorer mission in orbit around Jupiter. spacecraft: ESA / ATG medialab; Jupiter: NASA / ESA / J. Nichols (University of Leicester); Ganymede: NASA / JPL; Io: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona; Callisto and Europe: NASA / JPL / DLR

Using computer modeling, scientists were able to show that while the Earth’s northern lights are created along what are called open field lines that start at Earth and reach into space, Jupiter’s northern lights are linked to closed field lines that start inside the planet and then stretches out for thousands of miles before ending up back on the planet again.

They also found that impulses in the Northern Lights were due to fluctuations in the planet’s magnetic field, caused by the planet’s rotation. The electrically charged particles “surf” along the field lines and eventually hit Jupiter’s atmosphere, causing the aurora effect.

This phenomenon was observed using data from the Juno probe, which took continuous readings using its XMM-Newton X-ray instrument for 26 hours in 2017. Scientists were able to see a relationship between the planet’s magnetic processes and the production of X-rays. .

And this can not only happen on Jupiter. A similar process can happen elsewhere in our solar system or even further.

“This is a basic process that applies to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and probably also exoplanets,” said lead author Zhonghua Yao of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

The research is published in the journal Science Advances.

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